Sociology is the scientific study of society. As such, it closely examines human interactions and cultural phenomena, including topics like inequality and urbanization and the effects of these on groups and individuals. To do their work, sociologists rely on a philosophy of science called positivism, which you will study in Unit 1. The philosophy of positivism asserts that authentic knowledge, or truth, can only be gained through empirical observations. In other words, we need to be able to experience our observations or use scientific measurement with a form of sensory experience, as opposed to using faith-based or emotional experiences.
Another central concept to sociology is that of the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination allows sociologists to make connections between personal experiences and larger social issues. For example, did you know the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world? In order to understand this trend, sociologists use scientific methods to make concrete connections between social issues like sex education in schools, sexualization in the media, and poverty and the personal issue of teenage sexual activity and pregnancy.
This course is designed to introduce you to a range of basic sociological principles so that you can develop your own sociological imagination. You will learn about the origins of sociology as a discipline and be introduced to major sociological theories and methods of research. You will also explore such topics as sex and gender, deviance, and racism. As you move through the course, try to develop your sociological imagination by relating the topics and theories you read about to your own life experiences.